We continue our interview with Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz about their new fantasy series Once Upon a Time which travels back and forth between the realm of the fairy tale world and Storybrooke, Maine, where through the curse of the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) the characters are stuck in time and have no idea of their real identities.
Into this complicated scenario comes Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), who has been contacted by her 10 year old son, Henry (Jared Gilmore), whom she gave up for adoption. Is what he’s telling her true? Is she the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming?
With such a complex template for the show, we asked the writers/producers to clarify a few plot points.
Has time stood still?
Adam: Yes, in Storybrooke. That is what is presented and that is exactly one of the things we are going to explore, that very question, which is, what does that mean? If Emma is 28 years old, for 28 years have these people not aged? Are they frozen in time, and that is something that we want to continue to explore and intend to in this series.
And so the adults won’t say, ‘These kids haven’t grown in 28 years.’
Adam: You are asking exactly the right question, and that is exactly the question that, in the subsequent episodes, we are going to explore. But with the clock tick at the end of the [first] episode, everything is moving forward, and all bets are off.
If all of the people never age, wouldn’t they suspect that something was wrong?
Edward: That’s part of the curse; that they don’t realize. If they were aware of it, I would think that they would notice that. After 28 years, people that were still pregnant would wonder why they’ve had such a long pregnancy!
These are questions that we wanted to pose in the pilot. Episode 2 is going to dive more into that. The not-aging affect in all of these questions are all related to the curse.
Why would the Evil Queen curse herself, and end up in Storybrooke as the mayor?
Edward: The queen isn’t cursed. In fact, if I looked at the pilot, I would think her life seems a lot better than everyone else’s. She seems to live in a nice home. She’s the mayor of the town. I think if I had to be anyone on the show, she seems to have it down.
But it doesn’t appear that Storybrooke is really all that horrible a place.
Adam: One of the things that’s interesting about the pilot is we only really get a taste of Storybrooke, and in the series you’ll see more of it. It’s less about, for us, the sense that the town itself is physically dilapidated or falling apart as much as the lives of these characters are in some form of crisis.
Edward: he characters have a void in their lives, and that is what makes it tough for them.
Can you talk about the characters who are in this universe? You have, obviously, Grimm characters, but you also have Pinocchio, you have Jiminy Cricket, who is mostly a character in the Disney film, barely is in the book at all. Is it anything goes, or are there any rules?
Adam: There are rules, and the rules are, as the series progresses, the things that we intend to outline and push and play with. But for us, the jumping-off point was what are the iconography that we all share? And these stories and the way they’ve been told over the years cross all cultures.
Edward: And we love the mishmash. We really like the idea of Jiminy Cricket talking to Prince Charming and Geppetto and Grumpy at a war room council. That’s part of the fun of the show that you can bring in all of these characters from all of these stories.
I’ve heard that children don’t read fairy tales as much nowadays.
Adam: That’s one of the reasons why we want to go back and forth between the worlds, where we can start the stories at any point we want to, and tell any part of them we want to, and orient the audience in any way. So if you don’t know the story of Rumpelstiltskin, or you don’t know that story of Jiminy Cricket, we’re coming in in a different place and you can, if we do our job right, be able to enter in and figure out what’s going on.
On a show like Lost, when one mystery was solved, three or four more popped up in its place. This series seems to have a very specific goal. The end game would be freeing the characters of the curse. How long can you sustain that?
Adam: For us the show isn’t about breaking the curse. That is obviously part of it. It’s about these characters and it’s about their lives and what they’re going through. So how long can we explore those characters and what they’re going through? As long as people want us to.